Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Virginia Woolf, Alice and Me ..... by Miriam Halahmy

" So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say," wrote Virginia Woolf in, 'A Room of One's Own.

This year I was delighted to be taken on by a new publisher, Alma Books, for my MG novel, The Emergency Zoo, an untold story of kids and pets in WW2. Then I discovered that Alma's offices were in Hogarth House, Richmond, where Leonard and Virginia Woolf lived and where Leonard set up the Hogarth Press.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

I have had the good fortune in the past three years to be part of a committee to raise the profile of WW1 poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg. The meetings are held in the home of Rosenberg's biographer, Jean Moorcroft Wilson and her husband, Cecil Woolf, publisher and the nephew of Virginia Woolf. I told Cecil that my publishers were based in Hogarth House and that I had seen the printing press in the basement.

This was Cecil's reply, "I think the little hand-press in the picture is the one L & V used for printing circulars &c, rather than books. The small hand-press I bought from Leonard and stored in my bathroom was, I think, rather larger, probably the one on which they started printing small books in 1917. I eventually sold it to John Lehmann and it may be the press now at Sissinghurst. All that was about 60+ years ago . One must try not to have any regrets, well, not too many.
Lots of love,Cecil.

Cecil is in great demand to give talks about his memories of living with Leonard and Virginia and his stories are small nuggets of pure gold. "The last I time saw Virginia," he told us once, "she was picking apples." Having the chance to meet Cecil and hear stories first hand about such an iconic writer is quite amazing and both Jean and Cecil are two of the most fascinating people I have ever met. I have read several of Jean's books - she is an authority on Siegfried Sassoon and has just published her biography of Edward Thomas - and I can thoroughly recommend her work.

Alice in Wonderland - one of the great reading experiences of my childhood - completes this weird and wonderful blogpost. My new publishers, Alma Books, have just brought out their anniversary edition of Alice as it is 150 years since the book was first published and its absolutely brilliant. The edition includes Through the Looking Glass, Alice's Adventures Underground as well as Xmas and Easter Greetings to all readers from the author and extra background material. Beautifully illustrated, this is a fascinating new version for all fans of Alice.

I know all about six degrees of separation but this has been an incredible set of links, coincidences and experiences which are the very stuff of being an author.



Pippa Goodhart said...

Wonderful! Last week I was being 'background' for some filming in Cambridge, standing in Senate House Passage with a basket of droopy carrots over my arm, and walking over the cobbles in, for me, high heels, over and over again. With time to think, I realised quite how many connections I had within yards of where I was walking. Family connections to colleges and ceremonies in the Senate House, but I'd also just been writing a story in which my character visits the Woodwardian Museum full of fossils, at that time in the building on one side of that passageway. Pure coincidence, but it felt very pleasing. I then went on an errand to collect something from a porter's lodge about six yards away, and there was a great painting, done just three years after my story is set, and, named on a key, it showed one of my characters; Adam Sedgwick! I went on to the Sedgwick Museum to look at a particular fossil, and picked up a pamphlet about coprolite mining, which is at the heart of my story. The two local villages mentioned in the pamphlet are Grantchester (where I live and where my story is set) and Harlton (where my agent lives)! What next...?!

Penny Dolan said...

How interesting to hear about all these pleasant life coincidences, Miriam and Pippa.

Miriam Halahmy said...

Brilliant Pippa - if you took some pics that would make a great blogpost. It is strange how these connections appear in life and they are great fun!

Anne Booth said...


rjsolution said...

Een tafelblad dat in de tuin en in de woonkamer kan worden gebruikt? Kies voor het graniet tafelblad en ontdek al zijn positieve eigenschappen!